Confusion Continues on District’s Intentions For 9th Grade Reconfiguration

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A new DJUSD Parent Group was formed on Facebook and already has over 200 likes.  The parent who created it explained, “I am a parent in the district (and) my main objective of creating this page is so that we, as parents, can connect (and) communicate directly with each other.”

“I hope we can gain true transparency in the process of educating our kids and rather than rely on rumors or guessing, we can share facts, knowledge, ideas (and)  solutions,” she wrote.

One of the big issues that parents are concerned about is the 9th Grade Reconfiguration plan.  There have been a number of rumors, but it appears that the critical date is April 18, when staff will bring forward feedback and analysis to the board.

As one parent explained, “This is a potentially huge move/decision process that many feel is being rushed and not adequately including parents in the process. It is not a “done deal,” but if we, parents, don’t make our voices heard NOW, it will be done before we know what happened.”

But confusion continues to reign – some believe a decision could be made at that meeting, others believe it is simply an informational meeting.

Board Member Gina Daleiden was concerned that the misinformation was “unnecessary anxiety.”

She said, “The prior direction was to begin to identify options, show us what we might ultimately evaluate. We aren’t there…to my knowledge.”

In terms of the April meeting, she said, “My understanding is that the April (meeting)  is more of a workshop on the topic. There may well be a vote on direction, whether or not to proceed with the exploration of options other than status quo, how to involve stakeholders etc…but I cannot imagine we would have a vote on implementation.”  She added, “We simply don’t have enough information nor are we far enough along in the process.”

Ms. Daleiden would follow up that she met with the superintendent on Wednesday morning and said, “He will NOT be asking us for a vote on implementation of any particular model. The (meeting) will be a workshop to understand information staff has collected and analyzed thus far, but that information is not complete. Community input would be one of those pieces yet to come.”

“Staff will share initial ideas on what various options of reconfiguration might look like, what would be required , what process would be advisable for exploration further, and how planning for decisions might proceed,” Ms. Daleiden continued.  “The ending questions of the night would be focused on which, if any, new models/options/ideas are worth further exploration and analysis, and if so, how that process would look.”

Three weeks ago, the school district in response to public concerns issued a statement, through a letter from Superintendent Winfred Roberson.

“The purpose of this message is to clarify that the DJUSD Board of Education and district administration have not predetermined a 9-12 transition,” Superintendent Roberson writes. “I hope this eases some anxiety.”

The superintendent made it clear that any changes would not take place in the 2013-14 academic year.

He noted, “At this point in time, it is important to know that the board has directed administration to meet with stakeholders to examine the possibility of various reconfigurations as a means to deliver the best possible education to Davis students, maintain and improve our academic program and ensure the District’s long-term fiscal health.”

“My office and the administrative cabinet will begin formal workshop discussion on March 13 with secondary staff,” he wrote.  “Other stakeholder workshops will be announced in the near future. These workshops are intended to give us an opportunity to examine the academic, fiscal and social aspects of a 9-12 and other educational models.”

He concluded, “I expect that both the challenges and benefits of such transitions will be objectively considered by all stakeholders and decision makers.”

In early March, the Vanguard received a letter from the Holmes Junior High PTA opposing such a move.

“Holmes PTA opposes 9th grade reconfiguration at this time and voted at our last board meeting on 2/28 against this change,” the letter read. “We strongly believe that the process is being moved forward without the proper notification to and input from the district’s parents, students, staff and teachers.”

They continued, “We cannot find any evidence why the district thinks this move is necessary and a good idea.  We need this process to SLOW DOWN.”

A letter to the editor last week from former DTA President Cathy Haskell suggested that “many junior high teachers think this is more about placing Da Vinci High at a secondary site.”

She notes, “The last discussion of reconfiguration resulted in Da Vinci High moving from DHS to the Valley Oak elementary site, where the elementary school had been closed the year before and upgrades were made to accommodate secondary students.”

Ms. Haskell continued, “I believe this debate about 9-12 is really about Da Vinci. When will we have a second full high school in Davis? When will Harper convert to a high school with its own sports, music, language and electives program? What criteria will be used?”

“Or is this about closing elementary sites? Shifting ninth-graders to the high schools, moving sixth-graders to the junior highs (a middle school model), leaving capacity at elementary sites such that two elementary sites could close,” she adds.

Cathy Haskell continues, “District office, Davis Board of Education, what is the problem that you are trying to solve?”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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8 thoughts on “Confusion Continues on District’s Intentions For 9th Grade Reconfiguration”

  1. JustSaying

    How could “confusion continue to reign” if the school board member has described the purpose of the April meeting and assured the public that a decision or vote will NOT happen?

  2. DavisParent1

    Confusion reigns because official statements made on the record appear to be different than statements made by District officials off the record.

    On the record, the Board began the process of “reconfiguration” not just of the 9th grade, but potentially of the entire District at their January 10 Board meeting. (See District website for tape). Superintendent Roberson’s statement on the District’s website homepage is NOT an announcement that the Board is simply looking into sweeping an entire population of students out of schools successfully housing them, and instead inadequately housing them in trailers on other campus(es) (with attendant impacts on other schools, such as school closures, changing the status of neighborhood schools to magnets or charters that students would have to apply to and qualify for in order to attend, etc.) Instead, Superintendent Roberson’s statement on the homepage of the District’s website is an argument in favor of moving 9th grade to high school: “Only four of California’s 1000 school districts maintain a 10-12 high school configuration. Alongside the academic and social advantages that 9-12 configuration offers developing students are substantial fiscal benefits. An internal input gathering process is underway.”

    Nor is Superintendent Roberson’s statement an invitation for students, parents, and teachers (the reason the District exists in the first place) or homeowners, business owners, and other interested citizen groups (who could also be heavily impacted by sweeping District changes) to provide input to the Board regarding reconfiguration of 9th grade, and its attendant (as yet undisclosed but axiomatic) changes to other schools in the District. Instead, he dismisses legitimate concerns, before hearing them, regarding the biggest changes to the District, i.e. residents of the City of Davis, as being just “initial” concerns and taking it for granted that there are “solutions,” irrespective of the fact that the “initial concerns” have not yet been identified. By announcing the existence of solutions to problems that have not yet been identified, Superintendent Roberson is putting everyone on notice that 9 – 12 reconfiguration is a foregone conclusion.

    The Superintendent’s assurances that this will not happen in the 2013 – 2014 year do not relieve anxiety, as he would have it, because first, it never was the target date. 2014 – 2015 is the target date. Second, it does not address the issue: the fact of reconfiguration itself. Assurances of Trustees off the record, and the Superintendent’s off the record emails insisting the Board has not predetermined this transition do little curb insecurity because they do not square with what the District is doing ON the record.

  3. DavisParent1

    On the record, they are preparing to weigh the benefits against the burdens of re-configuring multiple school sites and multiple populations. They’re not gathering information for a tea party. They are not gathering information for purely academic purposes. This is not a classroom. It’s a boardroom.

    The Superintendent goes on to define the type of participation “stakeholders” will be given, which is limited to an appraisal of staff data and participation in open Board discussions:

    “As we study 9-12 configuration, we anticipate a broad range of initial concerns and solutions. Over the upcoming weeks there will be opportunity for all stakeholders to appraise staff data and participate in open board discussions.”

    This is the most trivial type of “participation” to which a parent or other “stakeholder” can be confined. In other words, it amounts to lip service only. In spite of the fact that the Superintendent distributed a district-wide email announcing “stakeholder” meetings will be announced in the near future, it now appears, ON the record, that it is going to the Board on APRIL 18 without even meeting with one of the most affected groups, parents and their children, first. Call it what you will: workshop, sit in, seance. It is being presented as a duly noticed meeting of the Board of Trustees with an item, numbered and noticed for action. It is not just a report to the Board.

    Unfortunately, the most important information the Board could and should be weighing at the April 18 meeting is from parents and their children. The Superintendent met with teachers once. The Board will not be receiving that information because Superintendent Roberson has not followed through after telling parents in a March 7 email he would do so. Relying on parents being able to attend the Board meeting on April 18, i.e. loitering outside a room that is too small to hold them while they wait for their opportunity to drop a sound bite, could never be confused with a meaningful opportunity to be heard and taken seriously. If the Board of Trustees really wants to act in such a way that accurately reflects the direction their constituents want them to go in, it would:
    1. take reconfiguration off the agenda (administrative activity notwithstanding). We have the money needed to keep and improve facilities, and we already have award-winning programs; or
    2. direct the Superintendent to schedule and moderate multiple community forums that offer students, parents, teachers, homeowners, business owners, and other citizen groups an opportunity for meaningful input and report their information back to the Board; or better
    3. form a broad coalition citizen advisory group (like the City did when it formed the Water Advisory Committee)and let them moderate community forums and report back to the Board.

    In the meantime, don’t be confused by statements made off the record. Until 9th grade reconfiguration is taken off the agenda by the Board (administrative activities notwithstanding) this is an action item before the Board for consideration. If “stakeholders” wait until the very end of the process, it won’t be enough for Board members to give their views and concerns meaningful consideration or to act accordingly.

    Bottom line: This comment is not intended to be an indictment of any District official. It is intended to be an honest assessment of what the Board can do on the record versus what’s going on behind the scenes. Parents should respond to what is on the record and act accordingly.

    According to the official record, if anyone wants to be heard regarding the most sweeping changes to Davis since… water rates tripled, on the record so far as we know, the District has granted you one shot: APRIL 18th at 7:00 p.m. You can email your concerns to Trustees in advance of that meeting as well. Their email addresses are available on the District’s website.

  4. wdf1

    DavisParent1: [i]By announcing the existence of solutions to problems that have not yet been identified, Superintendent Roberson is putting everyone on notice that 9 – 12 reconfiguration is a foregone conclusion.[/i]

    I don’t necessarily see this as inevitable.

    Some context to what has come since the initial Jan. 10 meeting:

    Facilities at DHS have become more clearly a huge challenge to this scenario succeeding — no MPR, need science labs, not enough music room space to bring in ninth grade groups, added lockers…

    The initial direction of the school board to look into this scenario came during a regular budget update. At the time it looked like there would be a structural deficit in the budget, which means that ongoing programs are being paid for by one time reserve money, rather than from revenue received from the state. Since then, it appears that the district will be receiving more money from the state ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/school-board-hears-encouraging-news-on-budget/[/url]) than initially assumed, possibly erasing a lot of the structural deficit. If the initial premise for the discussion of reconfiguration — the structural deficit — disappears, then there is less justification for pursuing reconfiguration.

    A big reason that there is ongoing anxiety about this issue is that the board asked for the reconfiguration study, but no declaration about where savings would derive. So that means that the public produces all kinds of speculation as to where the savings would come from — closing a school? which one? etc.

  5. JustSaying

    There appears to be an effort to build “confusion” as a strategy to take any discussions of change “off the agenda.” Our school board is ours, not some devil entity invading to take over the school system and force us to do unnecessary things that purposely damage our children’s (and their children’s education).

    Although it’s understandable that no one wants to lose a neighborhood school (or even a grade), I’d hope parents and school officials will see their ways to clarify and to work toward cooperation–instead of having “sides” trying to force any particular outcome.

    I expect Davis schools will look quite different in decades ahead, given Californians’ lack of interest in adequately paying for the education we want for our kids and the continuing Davisites’ aversion to allowing more housing that would slow the demographic changes that also are school-killers. As long as maintaining our own house values is more important, we can expect more change in schools.

    We elect our school board to make hard decisions like these, and expect them to listen before they act. Let’s not make it more difficult for them to do their jobs right.

  6. wdf1

    Davisite1: [i]3. form a broad coalition citizen advisory group (like the City did when it formed the Water Advisory Committee)and let them moderate community forums and report back to the Board.[/i]

    I understand from a school board member that this idea like this is actually being considered for discussion.

    JustSaying: [i]I expect Davis schools will look quite different in decades ahead, given… the continuing Davisites’ aversion to allowing more housing that would slow the demographic changes that also are school-killers.[/i]

    I have been mostly ambivalent about whether development should or shouldn’t take place in Davis. But in this recent Great Recession, the fact that we hadn’t built more housing developments in the 2000’s probably kept our overall local housing market a little stronger and more stable, fewer houses going underwater in Davis, and meant that voters had more confidence to pass the recent school parcel taxes that they did. Davis homes retained a greater percentage of their value compared to the 2005 median high than any other community I can find in the Sac. area, and in much of California.

  7. JustSaying

    I love your positive view, wdf1, and agree that we’ve fared well (and were in a good mood when parcel tax votes arrived). No doubt, the fact that all of our buyers were above average to start with helped us through the hard times. But, we’ll again be an exclusive, high-priced town with fewer and fewer young children to school and more and more college kids to house. It seems as though our practice of soliciting students from other districts to beef up our state funding will just be a temporary fix.

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